Cars 3: Same Gear, Still Speeding

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I had a nice time watching Cars 3. The positives outweigh the negatives on this one. Yes, there are many cliches and lacks the strong emotional punch of previous Pixar installments, but Cars 3 makes up for it with storytelling that develops as the characters develop themselves.

Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is no longer the fast one of the track as many new and improved cars are taking the tarmac. McQueen seeks the help of a car fitness instructor called Cruz Ramerez to get McQueen up to speed with the younger cars in order to reclaim the Piston Cup.

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The movie is centered on the relationship beitween Lightning McQueen and his new fitness coach Cruz Ramirez

Cars 3 is like a light-hearted escapist movie with a bit of a brain. There is a lot of races going on where McQueen and Ramerez speed around beaches, tracks, a smash-em-up derby and racing simulations. All of which is at least mildly entertaining with the brightly colored animation, dialogue, and action sequences.

Cars 3 also serves as justification in making a sequel by making the themes somewhat different. The action and the racing is similar (which I don’t mind) but the themes do involve a car learning about what he wants in his late career. It’s just a pity that there was not a satisfying payoff of that in the end. There are some decent moments but because the ideas Cars 3 dabbles in are not fully realized, Cars 3 does not separate itself from the rest of the pack.

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It’s a battle between old scool and new school and a battle of driving faster or driving smarter.

In between all of the action and ideas are some moments of humor and social satire. There a funny class between old-school fitness training with new-school fitness training. Cars 3 also satirizes sports broadcasting by the female cars giving superfluous sporting statistics and Cars 3 even makes fun of Pixar themselves turning into a cash cow franchise.

Ultimately I see Cars 3 as a movie that is firmly on the right track but lacks the courage of it’s convictions to go the distance. For another analogy: They built the car but not the road to drive on to experience the feeling of freedom. Still, it’s a pretty nice car to own. ⭐⭐⭐1/2.

 

 

 

 

Despicable Me 3 Review

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Acting ⭐⭐⭐
Build ⭐1/2
Writing:⭐⭐⭐1/4
Characters ⭐⭐3/4
Visuals: ⭐⭐⭐1/2

The Despicable Me franchise has always had it’s childish slapstick embedded into a story and it has usually worked. With Despicable Me 3, it is used as the crux and has it’s hits and misses. Because of that, Despicable me has some laughs and insightful moments, but can never fully develop them.

The story: Gru (Steve Carrell) who discovers he has a twin brother called Stu. They work together as criminals to try and take a diamond that was stolen by Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker) who is using that diamond to create a monster to destroy the world.

Illumination Entertainment knows you like the Minions so they are going to give it to you. There is a ton of kids slapstick humor with the Minions that kids will enjoy. I did not mind either until they kept doing Minion gags for what felt like forever. Eventually, I started to lose interest in the comedy as I felt it was getting stale.

After the entire first act of wacky comedy do we finally start to develop characters and eventually the plot. They try to develop characters such as Gru’s insecurities and Agnes (Gru’s youngest adoptive daughter) supposed loss of innocence but never works as well as it could have. I feel that’s because they spent so much time on action and comedic sequences that the story inadvertently falls by the wayside.

While Despicable Me 3 is a decent movie it plays so frustratingly safe that I have become somewhat disappointed in the franchise. The reason I am disappointed is that I know they can make great movies like the original. The original balanced the tones between action, comedy and drama perfectly. By the thrid time around it seems to have lost some of the substances by creating too much tiresome slapstick and little action or drama to counterbalance it ⭐⭐3/4

A Dog’s Purpose: It’s Ends :) It’s means :-|

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A Dog’s Purpose is a movie that asks the question “Does the ends justify the means?” that is because A Dog’s Purpose aims what is sets out to achieve: To make people cry. How it’s achieved is somewhat force-fed. Nevertheless, it sort-of worked.

The story is about a dog (voiced by Josh Gad) finding his reason for living and he reincarnates into other dogs when he (sometimes “she”) dies and gathers little life lessons along the way.

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I like sugar just not by itself. A Dog’s Purpose is sugar. At least it’s not shit.

A Dog’s Purpose is the equivalent of a kid constantly cheating to win a game in which he succeeds in doing. It’s a TV movie mixed with Marley and Me. A Dog’s Purpose was straining my emotional investment by using its surgery sweetness and fabricated charm to manipulate me into believing this film is amazing.

For instance, they re-recycled some of the oldest heart-pulling tricks imaginable in the movie For sad scenes, they either prolong the death with music drenched in melancholy or they show the owner in emotional pain while the music is drenched in melancholy.

For happy scenes, it shows the dog gleefully galloping up the hills of the farm to which there is a sunset glistening on the horizon. Or the dog falls in love with a bigger dog which coincided with a romantic relationship between the owners. This movie was so insanely predictable I was surprised that the audience around me was surprised when the various payoffs occur.

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This scene with Dennis Quaid was one of the few scenes I really liked

Nevertheless, the movie sort of works because I was feeling the effects. I have a dog and that probably made me empathize with the movie more, yet I was not fully into its shameless ways of getting me to care. In that sense, A Dog’s Purpose reminded me of the disastrous saccharine that was Mother’s Day but admittedly, A Dog’s Purpose is miles better than Mother’s Day simply because it achieves what it sets out to achieve: To make viewers cry.

So again, I asked myself the question “Does the ends justify its means?”

My answer is “not really”. I always believed in a movie that the ending itself does not matter but how the movie gets to the ending and how well executed the ending is.

Although points do go to the innocent intentions of the movie and it does try to send a positive message without being in any way shocking, sarcastic, ironic or overly negative. I actually somewhat appreciate it’s willingness and defiance to tell the story how they like it. I may not agree with it, but I harbor no animosity for it like I would for a bad movie. ⭐⭐

P.S. I don’t care about the story of supposed animal cruelty angle TMZ showed. This review has nothing to do with it. PETA fell for that news story. TMZ deliberately misrepresented the story for a rating. They succeeded but do their ends justify their means?

Land of Mine- A Suspenseful War flick

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Land of Mine is a Danish film that was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and after watching it I completely understand why. Rich in suspense, satisfying payoffs, and both story and character development leads to something that is both simultaneously harrowing and life affirming. This might make my top 10 films of 2017 list.

Set immediately after the Norwegian reoccupation of their country after World War 2, Land of Mine follows the story between a division of German teenage boys and their new Danish Sargent Carl Leopold Rasmussen (Roland Møller) as they clear more than two million mines on the shores of Norway.

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The first time one of the many inexperienced Germans are defusing their first mine. You can only imagine how suspenseful this was watching his fate unfold.

What shines through in Land of Mine is how empathy and understanding inside humanity break the banners of both national pride and near demonic hatred that try to consume it. We get that in the first scene of the movie in which Sargent Rasmussen spots one of the surrendered Germans holding a Danish flag and he beats him bloody while screaming “You don’t own this flag!” as he has internalized resentment from the years of German occupation. The division he gains are the teenage boys, who are barely trained in mine defusion. However, slowly but surely the sergeant begins to care for their suffering in an environment where they were seen as a commodity for defusing mines and a liability when they make one fatal mistake.

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Rolland Moller has such a great balance for this character. He is imposing, sympathetic, and even when he is vulnerable he plays it with confidence.

Beyond the valley of great storytelling and humanity, Land of Mine works as a suspenseful thriller. Great war and horror movies will suck you in by evoking suspense instead of showing the slash scene because the chase is better than the catch in life. In addition to that, Land of Mine has several scenes in which mines detonate. Only one of them I expected. There are several tropes in movies for which I expected Lane of Mine to fall under in terms when a mine would detonate. Only once was I not caught off guard. This movie was just so engrossing on the suspense level.
When the great acting and character development on both the sergeant and the various German boys coupled with the suspense of it all, Land of Mine turns into something special. It’s crazy that war movies, on the whole, are so creative in my opinion that Land of Mine is barely visible of the top tiers of war movies. That’s is fantastic for the war genre. Lane of Mine is a great film and yet I can count several war movies that are better on the top of my head. That is not a negative criticism but an observation. Land of Mine was just an absorbing suspenseful experience. This is the first great film I have seen in over a month and movies like Land Of Mine keep me motivated as I find diamonds in the rough once more ****1/2

The Fate of The Furious: Still chugging along

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They say you cannot judge a book by it’s cover. They never said you can’t judge a movie by promotional picture!

The Fate of The Furious is one-upping itself by having bigger action set pieces than ever before. There are cars that topple over a multi-story parking lot like tears in the rain, five cars trying to hog tie another car, there is a car race were one of those cars was on fire and a goddamn submarie break thes ice of the Russain freaking ocean chasing our heroes. None of which is a spoiler because either 1. They happen early on or 2. They revealed them in the trailer.

The reason I describe the movie like that is simply for this one notion:

What more did you expect from this franchise?

Despite the enthusastic tone, let’s not be mistaken, The Fate of the Furious is an unsurprising, middle of the road film. To continue this car analogy, this installment of the franchise is the pitstop. A 1 billion dollar pitstop, but a pitstop nonetheless. At least it was not the car crash of the franchise. The pitstop isn’t a bad place to be but it isn’t running the laps. That’s because this movie was a hit and miss: some action scenes worked, others were too ridiculous. There is a story in it that darting around, but at least there is a story to this movie. If you are a fan of the franchise, you will like this because The Fate of the Furious keeps chugging along rain, hail or shine.

The Positives: The story and the Script

The plot: Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) goes rogue because the antagonist Cipher (Charlize Theron) has something on him and uses that to her advantage and Toretto helps her against his will to implement her own plans (and to the horror of his “family”).

There is a reason I mention the plot and that’s because it’s somewhat important. Yes, in movies as a whole, that’s a given but in action movies not so much. A prime example of bad storytelling being xXx The Return of Xander Cage in which the story was so aimless, scattershot and boring that it became laughable. The Fate of the Furious actually has some restraint in what it shows in terms of keeping the plot together as it kept me focused on the story which is a relief.

The other thing that was restrained was the script. It wasn’t cringeworthy like I have heard in most action movies. They only mention the word “family” thirteen times (I predicted twice the amount and it being more explicit than subtle). Therefore I consider it a success. The script isn’t Shakespeare but it doesn’t have to be. The funniest lines occur when Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) has a hang up that he didn’t make it to the ten most wanted list whereas the other friends did (conveniently, he was number 11). So the movie was salvageable in the script department as well.

Furiously Burning the Budget: The Action Sequences

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The picture totally doesn’t make me the think of the song “America, Fuck Yeah” from Team America World Police

What was not restrained was the action sequences. That was exactly what I expected. They normally started off by being cool and/or clever but then change gears and amp up the ridiculousness. A prime example is an opening scene where Dominic races a Cuban with a poorly run car that he soups up at the last minute. During the race, the engine catches on fire while he is neck and neck.

That was fun. I have seen it before, but it was still fun.

Then the engine combusts and the flames obscure Dominic’s vision so he decided to finish (and win the race) by driving backwards while the crowd is cheering that a flaming car is racing toward them.

That was dumb.

To be honest, Fate of the Furious was mildly interesting throughout. It is certainly not the best in the franchise (that was Fast Five for me) but it is certainly not the worst (The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift). It aimed to be the biggest action film of the year in terms of sheer scale and yet I didn’t feel that way. In terms of money at the box office, that is a real possibility. **3/4

Beauty and the Beast: There’s Something There

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Beauty and the Beast is a movie taken in with some care. I thought the movie worked because of the acting, music, set design and special effects. The funny thing is that those elements of Beauty and the Beast sometimes threaten to swallow the movie up. Ultimately (and thankfully), that doesn’t happen but I was holding my breath up until the ending.

The last time I saw the animation was when I was about five years old. So I don’t remember much of it. However, I did read about what the remake added from the original after seeing the movie. Sadly, the majority of what was added to the story doesn’t add to the overall quality of Beauty and The Beast, it was just there. What was perhaps the most important addition was the origin story of The Beast himself which is how the movie started.

The Music: The Hits and The Misses

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Not in Beauty and the Beast but “Kiss from a Rose” would be the most on-the-nose track for this movie 🙂

Beauty and the Beast is a spectacle and it knows it. Every song in this movie is meant to express grandeur and splendor more than anything else. There are songs in which there is a large ensemble bellowing out tunes from the top of their lungs and the tips of their voices. The songs “Belle”, “Gaston” and “Be Our Guest” are times when it works and others like “The Mob Song” where it doesn’t.

The music ends up being essential to the movie and overall it does work. However, it’s music coupled with the special effects threaten to make the movie feel bloated and threatens the swallow up the story of the Beauty and the Beast. It doesn’t end up doing that, but I was afraid at times it would.

The Special Effects that Are so Special

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As you can see the CGI (and especially the set design) is godamn meticulous. Lots of browine points here!

I can imagine that the accountant responsible for creating the budget saw the line “Expenses: CGI- Spare no expense” and having a heart attack while the CEO said “Just trust me” as a validation. Beauty and the Beast commit to the special effects so much that judging the film goes hand-in-hand with it. It is abundant and it works.

The special effects are mostly colorful, believable and inventive. The best use of the special effects would go to the song “Be Our Guest”. Beauty and the Beast do manage (barely) to balance those special effects out. If every song was inundated like “Be Our Guest” was, I would have had to wash all those colors out of my eyeballs in a sink. Thankfully, Beauty and the Beast did not turn into “Alice Through The Looking Glass” from that perspective.

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Thank God Beauty and the Beast isn’t as oversaturated in colour like Alice Through the Looking Glass. Even though it boarders along that line.

 

The weakness in the special effect department was Beast himself. Main it’s because of character movement and facial expressions looking mechanical and not natural. There are sequences where he looks stiff and other moments in the climax where he had the agility of someone a quarter of his size.

Overall there was enough entertainment value in Beauty and the Beast to recommend, the acting is good (Josh Gad as LeFou gets the best lines so I’d listen to what he says) and the production and set design is rich and detailed and the music mostly works (unless you are fan of quiet and subtle music). It’s not in the musical leagues of Sing Street or La La Land, but Beauty and the Beast undoubtedly works and is fun ***1/4

The emoji movie challenge

I was on Twitter and experimenting with emojis when I had the sudden thought: “Why don’t I play an emoji game with my audience?”

It’s a fun little activity that involves less reading and more problem solving. Listed are 20 emojis. All of them are films that were released in 2016 (In America at least). Can you solve all of them? If you can get more than 15 of them I will give you 15 emoji dollars. All you have to do is leave your answers in the comment section on this blog post. If you get all 20, you get 100 emoji dollars.

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PS. If you manage to get numbers 3, 10, 15, 16 and/or 19 you are a God. I was limited by the emojis on Twitter and I would have put better/easier emojis on them . If you can solve those ones specifically you did a great job. I will post the answers either 24 or 48 hours after this posting

Good luck and have fun 🙂